I spent a lot of the day picking weeds. Nothing beats having enough free time to sit in the warm sun picking weeds. Even better, I’m heeding chapter 64’s, Deal with a thing while it is still nothing; Keep a thing in order before disorder sets in. Occasionally, our ducks come to where I’m weeding, chattering away and foraging for a tasty morsel before moving on. It got me wondering…
A duck’s quacking chatter is its vocal expression of emotion. Having been around them for years, I can pick out their moods: excited, content, curious, afraid, hungry, feeling kinship. They are Indian Runners, an extremely social breed.
I’ve come across large segments of humanity that can’t countenance such “humanizing” of animals in general, and birds or less creatures in particular. Of course, they wouldn’t be reading this book anyway, so I won’t need to justify my view… at least so far.
I realized today, in a simpler earthy way, that human thought is the equivalent expression of emotion for us. That includes any speech or writing that thought churns out. Ducks quack their emotion, dogs bark their emotion, and humans think and speak their emotion — and so on throughout the animal kingdom.
Physical actions are also key ways emotion expresses itself. The difference is that quacking and thinking take much less physical effort and so reverberate more easily throughout awareness than other more physical actions (work, hobby, sport, art, etc.). But wait, there’s more…
The one thing that stirs up more emotion than most in me has always been the unknown. Does she love me, does she not? Will I miss my flight; lose my job; is it cancer? Not only do I experience the unsettling emptiness of the unknown, I see it in everyone and everywhere I look. Fear of the unknown is another experience we share with ducks. Indeed, fear is universal. But wait, there’s more…
The more is this:
Seeing a direct connection between emotion, thinking, and speaking offers a straightforward way to understand what chapter 56 means by, One who knows does not speak; one who speaks does not know.(1) Stirring emotion triggers us to think and speak, and ducks to quack. Such emotion overwhelms the ‘cool’ impartial phase of perception that alone is capable of perceiving what chapter 1 describes as… These two are the same, But diverge in name as they issue forth. Being the same they are called mysteries… Indeed, as chapter 56 sums it up, This is known as mysterious sameness. Thus, one who speaks does not know doesn’t refer to a lack of knowing something, but instead, a lack of knowing nothing.
On the other hand, emotion cools when, as chapter 16 puts it, I do my utmost to attain emptiness; I hold firmly to stillness. The myriad creatures all rise together and I watch their return. The teaming creatures all return to their separate roots. Here, there is no emotional energy to drive quacking, thinking or speaking. Here, even the unknown is known, and so I can just be a quiet duck.
(1) Chapter 56 says, “One who speaks does not know”. This is not some admonition such as, “Verily I say, ye shall not think, speak or quack”. In other words, the thinking, speaking and quacking are merely symptoms, not causes. Conversely, trusting your thoughts to be true establishes thought as fundamental in its own right instead of simply a symptom of a deeper reality. Trusting what you think to be true leads to difficulty, as chapter 71 cautions, Not to know yet to think that one knows will lead to difficulty. For a long time I assumed chapter 56 was saying that speaking and thinking were a liability somehow, perhaps because it implied not knowing. Happily, I see this more impartially now.